Orica-GreenEdge grabbed the reins of the field sprint and delivered Michael Matthews (Australia) to the win in Grande Prairie in Thursday’s stage of the Tour of Alberta. The time bonus at the line propelled Matthews into the race lead.
Unlike Wednesday when the evening was clear but windy, the second stage was run in chilly, overcast conditions with light rain. Vests and jackets were the order of the day, along with ear, arm and leg warmers. Canadian breakaway member Ben Perry (Silber) even wore a snood.
A quartet pulled away from the peloton soon after the start in Grande Prairie. Bora-Argon 18’s Cesare Benedetti (Italy) picked up maximum bonus seconds at the two intermediate sprints in the first half of the route.
— Canadian Cycling Mag (@CDNCyclingMag) September 3, 2015
The parcours’ second half contained a kilometre of dirt before the first of two circuits south of the city, each with a King of the Mountains climb.
By the time Perry had won the first KOM, Trek had pulled the foursome within 2:20. The escape lost a man on the second KOM ascent, with the peloton a minute behind. Once again, Perry prevailed in the KOM race, but had to overcome a skipping chain in his effort.
The third climb wasn’t categorized, but would be crucial to the finale 7-km following its crest. On the way to climb three, H&R Block’s Travis Samuel (Canada) tried to bridge to the leading trio but couldn’t make the juncture. With Drapac interested in bringing back the fugitives, the trio submitted when the road kicked up again. The race came together with 8-km to go.
Tom-Jelte Slagter (The Netherlands/Cannondale-Garmin) attacked as the climb continued and three riders joined him. Orica-GreenEdge crowded the front of the peloton where Svein Tuft helped to lasso the new escape. The catch was made before Evergreen Park.
It was time for the colour-blocks to form in the road spray. Orica led under the red kite and formed an effective delivery system. The final surge was confusing and there was a crash in the bunch because of a fallen banner. For a couple of minutes it was unclear who took the win, but the photo finish revealed that Matthews stayed ahead of Niklas Arndt (Germany/Giant-Alpecin) for the victory.
“From 5km to go, we took the front,” described Matthews, pleased after Orica narrowly missed on Wednesday’s team time trial triumph. “With guys like Svein, there aren’t too many guys that can hang on. We used our horsepower to our advantage. The boys totally nailed it. We knew what we needed to do, but it’s something else to pull that off.”
Perry spoke of the surprise of pulling on the orange polka-dot jersey and the objectives of his Canadian Silber squad: “The goal was to win the most aggressive jersey, but I ended up with the KOM. We are here for the exposure and the later stages. We have some riders that are better suited to that.”
“Bling” Matthews’ teammate Christian Meier moved up to third in GC. Of the conditions, he said, “Today the weather played a role. For a lot of us coming from Europe, coming here is a shock to the system.”
Friday’s stage finishes in Jasper National Park and will throw some big climbs at the peloton.
2015 Tour of Alberta Stage 2
1) Michael Matthews (Australia/Orica-GreenEdge) 4:10:19
2) Niklas Arndt (Germany/Giant-Alpecin) s.t.
3) Alexey Tsatevich (Russia/Katusha) s.t.
7) Guillaume Boivin (Canada/Optum) s.t.
2015 Tour of Alberta GC
1) Michael Matthews (Australia/Orica-GreenEdge)
2) Marco Coledan (Italy/Trek) +0:10
3) Christian Meier (Canada/Orica-GreenEdge) s.t.